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That also means the Canucks are built to handle the loss of a top defenseman. Dan Hamhuis seems unlikely to play in Game 2 after incurring an undisclosed injury while delivering a low check in the opener, but Vigneault has three credible options as replacements.

Hamhuis didn’t skate in Vancouver’s practice Friday at the University of British Columbia. Andrew Alberts, a scratch in Game 1, skated with Ehrhoff, while Aaron Rome moved up to skate alongside Hamhuis’ normal defensive partner, Kevin Bieksa.

“That’s who I think it’s going to be,” Ehrhoff said of Alberts. “He’s a very strong and physical defenseman, and he can bring a strong presence to our back end.”

Keith Ballard, who’s making $4.2 million this year, also is an option on the Canucks bench for Vigneault.

“We’ve tried to play the right way all year long, which is having a good balance between good team defense and good team offense when it’s time to go on the attack, when it’s appropriate,” Vigneault said.

Boston doesn’t share the Canucks‘ overall aggression, and the Bruins can fall into a defensive shell when necessary. They didn’t have a scorer in the NHL’s top 25 during the regular season, but their top line is emerging as one of the best in hockey during the postseason with David Krejci setting up Lucic and Nathan Horton.

There’s another key factor in this scheme: top-notch goaltending.

Roberto Luongo and Tim Thomas are two of the league’s top three goalies, if being a finalist for the Vezina Trophy indicates anything. Both are experienced veterans at the close of outstanding individual seasons, further cementing their reputations.

Luongo, who tied for the NHL lead with 38 victories, won a gold medal for Canada in last year’s Olympics, while the late-blooming Thomas already has a Vezina on his mantle. Both have thrived under the burden of hefty contracts and high expectations, giving their teammates the confidence necessary to be creative.

“You can survive a lot of mistakes and play with a lot of aggression if you’ve got a goalie like we do, and they do,” Boston’s Mark Recchi said. “Your goalie is your most important defensive player, and Timmy makes us a lot better as a team.”

Even casual hockey fans appear to be catching on to the excitement generated by Vancouver, Boston and the other contenders. The playoffs’ early rounds had the NHL’s highest U.S. television ratings since 1994, and the Canucks‘ win over Boston drew the best U.S. rating for a finals opener in 12 years _ along with a whopping 5.6 million viewers in Canada, where the high-flying Canucks are must-see TV even for Maple Leafs or Canadiens fans.

“It’s fun to play at this time of year, and hopefully it’s as entertaining for the fans as it is for us,” Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler said.